III form/verse/acts

I. the recognizance

the recognition by sundown of
my verbroot is an
arbitrary systematization of negation/
                             negation. It is,

Therefore it can be there
Fore it must.

II. this ring of fire

This ring of fire
  not withstanding 
                  the ouch of naught, and / inch
      while you were away, zealot inkfellows yellowed out your burn.

III. the dry bleed

In a beached solvent, the
     A soluble contentment, a
     Bleed, a systematic appropriation of change as ambassador.

The halted screech

The screech is halted as
  a wound; it is tempered

As voice, as a weathered
  bell, as the stone worn

On a feathered toe; as we
  climb out of the well;

To work its way as sound
  does, as the flippant 

Aerial word does; the air
  is trapped in a stone

Lung and it is parched with
  yesterday, yesterday.

the unstuck poem

When you peel the poem off 
   your back, it

Comes undone, it sticks back
   on to dear life.

That is the last breath of
   the unstuck poem

As it unravels its fight
   before your lies. Your ink will not think
   its grief

as if it is bound to a
   stone out

of gratitude - it will not sink, it will not be any briefer than it has to be.

The world as loss

To reach beyond the loss; hark, sun,
   the droop of my mourn as
   ash counts wedded beats
   and reveals an acorn beast.

Hark, sun, the wringed azure,
   as you plunge the red across
   my morn, and as you read the
   acid lawn, explain.

This was written as one possible response to Muriel Rukeyser’s Song.

The world is full of loss; bring, wind, my love,
    my home is where we make our meeting-place,
    and love whatever I shall touch and read
    within that face.

Lift, wind, my exile from my eyes;
      peace to look, life to listen and confess,
      freedom to find to find to find
      that nakedness.
Muriel Rukeyser

the pyre and the ancient truck

the pyre is not set upon the
Course for

an afternoon stroll through firewood, the corpse
Will tell; the

pyre is built up through time, the coarse fabric of
Time, and

will not burn till you set upon it the foundations of
That which

Needs to be no more.

the ancient truck will not
sit idly by

it will not grieve the harp
of swarm &

guilt; it will not brood not
crypt a bitten

heart, a bidden harp, a blue
stolen from

the cusp of yellow rivers &
pallid rock.

Voices of the small small, Accra 2016 – IV

Before leaving for Accra, I had searched for Ghanaian poets online. When work was done, and as I was about to leave Accra, a friend took me to a couple of bookstores where I found a few books by local poets. And after coming back home, I searched online for some more. Here is a small sample of Ghana’s own voices, in verse.

I discovered Aquah Laluah (1904 – 1950) online after coming back home.

The Serving Girl

The calabash wherein she served my food
Was polished and smooth as sandalwood.
Fish, white as the foam of the sea,
Peppered and golden-fried for me.
She brought me palm wine that carelessly slips
From the sleeping palm tree’s honeyed lips.
But who can guess, or even surmise
The countless things she served with her eyes?

Here is one by a contemporary poet, Kofi Anyidoho, from one of his books, “A harvest of our dreams”, that I found in Accra.


Last night newspeddler told us how
at last they picked the venom from our voice
into stainless tubes well corked with seals of state

and we will glide through life with all sorrows
transformed into beatific visions of excessive joy

so help us Dog!

And here are two from another contemporary poet, Tawia Tsekumah. His poems are almost Kabir-like in their directness. The first one is from his book that I got in Accra, “A crown for the baboon and other poems”.


All life is but a battle
Composed of captors and captives

Mothers who hold their promising sons captive
And fathers who hold their favourite daughters captive.

Employers who hold their most hardworking staff captive
And Parsons who hold their most devout captive.

Husbands who hold their wives captive,
And wives who hold their husbands captive.

Freedom is not something you ask for - just take it.
And fight with all your strength to protect it.

Better to be free and hungry,
Than to be well fed all your life in a cage.

And this one I picked up online:

The World Mirrors Like A Calm River

My good friend,
I can't keep sugar-coating this anymore:
You are the world,
And the world is you,
If you deceive the world,
You deceive yourself,
Your world is you,
And you are your world.
The whole world mirrors like a calm river. 

I end with the last couple of poems I wrote before leaving Accra.
May 27

The history of words, of private
Worlds standing in communion

With the worry of dawn & the
Flight of joy, the semblance of

Meter & the line of hate, the
Past as prejudice & a little

Late; the history of verb
As it acts on pawns of being

Known; the history of you and
What is not you given as the

Word splits infinity.
The Obroni's burden
is a heap of cheap dyes;
wool cast in the lead of
black wounds; overcast sky
and underrated wish; the
burden is a
          sin; an acknowledgement
of a woman waning
   a son wanting
   a rite repeating
   in vain.

Q & A

How to puncture the realtime
theatre of framed veracities

competing with an arrow’s feel
& glow? How to beat the hum

of this air of receding when
harm is wondering where to farm?

The most effective tool for
Words is the one I hanker

For in the forest of ink, the
Deathwell of distance and

Memory; that is where the sun
Wills and the waves affirm.

How to engage the sum
of nonsense? do you just
pitter the patter with a
pith of shoo? or do you

subsist in desisting? do
you fill the cup of brine
with a shave of hubris,
a clip of mauve and some

rubber? how to besiege this
shibboleth? do you preach
one geography and map another?
do you slip into a vow of

how and whatsoever, never?


The tug of dark is soot
    in this month 

Of cut and burn; it is
    a daily rite,

This cut, this howl of
    night, day, 

Sun, tendrils of tinder
    tender wisps.

The big man and the small small, Accra 2016 – III

(The first two posts on my recent Accra visit are here and here.)

Kwame Nkrumah was the nationalist leader who led Ghana to independence in 1957 and went on to serve as prime minister and president until he was ousted in a military coup in 1966. That was fifty years ago. I tried to bring him up in a few conversations, and the one that sticks out is one in which the great leader – and Nkrumah is the Ghanaian archetype – is extolled over ordinary people, for what do people want except to “eat and sleep!” (quoted by a Ghanaian colleague who also proclaimed, “one great man is worth a thousand ordinary people.”)

I couldn’t disagree more.

I tried to bring in Eduardo Galeano‘s words to counter this elitist search for a saviour, but to no avail. Here is Galeano on the topic:
“You and I are educated and we know the world. We are in many ways what they call the leaders. And leaders must serve their people. No matter how tough our lives are, we are not victims. Those who are suffering are the robbed, poor, uneducated people. They have to decide whether and when to take up arms and go: they, not we. If and when they decide to fight, we have to obey and lead them. Whether they will fight or not is not up to us to decide.”

May 23

To say again the all; the singe
Of song; to cry again the wary
Wail and the army's ail; the
Bemoaned are the joyous, but
They will not carve out an 
Evolutionary niche in the
Political economy of a tired
Literature and burnt poetry.

Orientalizing the small small, Accra 2016 – II

(This is the second of a series of posts on my visit to Accra, Ghana, in May 2016. The first one, introduced the sense of the small small.)

Edward Said‘s Orientalism is one of those books I have been slow reading over the years, esp. on trips where I get very little time to browse the net. The gist of Orientalism is the humiliating Othering of the conquered that provided the primary justification for colonial rule. Failure to take that into account in mainstream discourse today plays out as continued internalization of the white man’s burden by both the oppressor and the oppressed, albeit in politically correct flavors.

May 19

I will run to the carrion
   of the small justice, to

The fight that lulls the bird
   and stuns the sky; I will

Burn the carrion of a 
   smaller fire, a river

That behaves only in periodic
   humiliations; we burn thus.

May 21

The structure of fear as
   it embeds itself; its

Embers as they crown an
   uncertain glory that is

Affect, distance, porous; the
   shred of an uneven


My work in Accra involves collection of prices from markets. I visited the local Makola market in Accra – I was told the the largest in Ghana – with the price collection team.

Click on the Wikipedia link on Makola above, and you will find another Orientalist gem. A short introduction, but it is felt necessary to mention Anthony Bourdain’s visit to the market thus: “during the episode, Tony walked through the market, where he sampled local wares and enjoyed a condensed milk-toffee drink made with local herbs.”

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The sum of all prices is one;
The price as an asymptote
Of value; the value of all
Being is one; that of sweat
And the hum of the market,
The flailing economy of an
Unreason; that which is not one.

Eventually little remains of the local market that is not tied to the larger, more efficient, global market. And there’s the rub.

The weep is an ancient want
    Cry; an insoluble

To want to cry; the deep;
    The fallible ineffable

Articulated by an effable
    Other; the dark; the

Solder in its burn to
    Weld and weld the red.

Revisiting the small small, Accra 2016 – I

This is the first of series of posts to follow up on my recent visit to Accra, Ghana. 2008 was when I was there last, and 2002 was when Ghana introduced me to Africa. Since then, what has changed without as seen through the prism of what has changed within is written out in verse and reflection. The context has always been work, but content can change context.

May 15 – Inflight Dubai to Accra

The plumb fascination dons
   every mask, every
   trite boredom, every sink
   that wishes well, the

Plum fascination is a gasp,
   a gap of known and
   little known facts, a gap
   of missing factotums.

“Small small” is Ghanaian speak for a little quantity, small change, etc. Poetically, it captures the spirit of the Tao Te Ching, “know the high, stick to the low.” But all that has been forgotten and turned upside down historically in favor of the grand. A redemptive poetics of the small small is not possible without reaching back and bringing back to the fore the “little known facts” and the “missing factotums.”

May 16

The tailbone of the journey is far from
    Release unless you
Endear its father & soulfish its
    Ancestry; its ghoul of

Faith & train of unreason; the 
    Tailbone of your untapped
Soulwhistle is the further ash
    That trammels and pouts

As it sings, inks into the
    Untimed meter of gash
Of ink and the body of craft & pain.

A poetics of the small small is also not possible without a soulful accounting of the damage done by the patriarchal laws of entitlement and its “train of unreason” masked as faith.

May 17

The old dominion of dread is
   but half past

dead, half past the fleet of
   the unsaid, the

blue cart of a thrush's 
   unusual said, and

done and what is untrue of
   sky is true of sin,

true too of the half past
   unsung dread

the languor, the peel of
   dread and its song.

What has been damaged is felt today as dread, what Erich Fromm calls “the fear of freedom.” The machinery of sin and shame keeps that fear – though irrelevant, unrooted, out of place and time – in play.

May 18

The sin has to decide
  to drown its bellowed

Insight in the shadow
  of this here wanton

Word wanting to drift
  a broken toast, a

Wooden art and the semblance
  of a power turret

In the following posts, I will try to tackle aspects of the “power turret”, the myth of the great leader, the history of colonialism, neoliberalism and Orientalism as they relate to Ghana and as voiced by its poets.